How not to sell product (or why I hate Salesforce right now)

salesforce-sucksSo we’re looking for a CRM. Lots of startups are. It happens. You get to the point where you can’t track stuff in spreadsheets, the cheap stuff drives the marketing person (i.e., me) completely nuts, and you have to grow up and pay for something real.

Okay, no problem. so we’ll look at options. Oh, two of us know Salesforce really really well? Cool. Let’s look at that. Do some research. Figure out what kind of deals other companies get. Fill out a web form.  Awesome.

I naively thought that Salesforce would have its crap together with selling. After all, IT’S SALESFORCE. They wrote one of the rulebooks that I’m basing my sales process on.  Also, I thought, since I negotiated hundreds of software contracts during my 11 years in IT, that this should be a pretty easy negotiation.

And then… sigh.

I like sales reps. Even new ones. Except that the one we got had no idea whatsoever how to handle this deal. My coworkers got to the point that they could tell when I got him on the phone, because my body language and voice tone got rather amusingly annoyed.

I don’t know that I realized how badly a sales rep could screw things up with a customer who WANTS TO BUY, but this guy did. I spent the morning looking at other CRMs, and I emailed his boss a few minutes ago to ask for a different rep. I’ve gone from 100% wanting to build my business on Salesforce to just wanting this guy to go away so that I can set up my sales processes without getting stabby. Well, MORE stabby.

What did he do? So glad you asked!

  1. Kept trying to get to the “decision maker”. Key problem: I’m the decision maker, idiot. Yes, my CEO will be pulled in to make sure I’m not smoking crack (or maybe to play bad cop), but you’re an idiot if you’re selling to tiny startups as your job and you can’t figure out that “Head of Growth” might have a bit to do with making the decision.
  2. Followed the script. I said, “I want pro because of the following reasons:” He then walked me through all of the questions that got us right back to the same conclusion. Sigh.
  3. Overuse of the nuclear option. Hint: Saying, “I’m not sure that Salesforce is the right fit for your company” when ALL I ASKED FOR WAS NON-LIST PRICING on every effing call was overuse.
  4. Leaving the breakup voice mail too soon. Yeah; I do have a full time job. Sorry I didn’t get back to you that same business day. Thanks so much for breaking up with me.

Good grief. I can’t believe how hard he tried to lose this sale. Should be interesting to see if his manager can salvage the deal.

Telling Stories – Even in Technology

Recently, I got to have a blast telling a story. We put together a story about our company’s two-year history and posted it to SlideShare. In fact, I had so much fun that I’m going to show it, and then get on with my post:

I hope you flipped through that, because I work with a great bunch of folks who have senses of humor similar to mine (which is pretty darn remarkable when you think about it).

But anyhow, on to my point: storytelling.

When I was working on the storyboard for the slideshare, I tweeted:

And it’s true – I had a blast with the storytelling part of marketing.  So I started mentally composing this post all about storytelling and marketing and yada yada yada.  Then I realized something: storytelling isn’t isolated to marketing. In fact, I may have done more storytelling in technology than I do now.

Think about it for a second. What are you doing when someone asks you what’s going on? Or what happened? Or why the $%^&* exchange server is going on?

You’re telling a story.

You may be telling the story of the heat in the server room that caused the hard drive in the SAN to degrade combined with the SAN being too full to replicate when you swapped the drive. (Not that I’ve ever told that story or anything. Nope, not me.) Maybe you’re telling the story of the bug that flipped all the bits and made your product choke for six hours while you fixed it. Or maybe you’re telling the story of a budget that’s stretched too thin for what you need to do.

Whatever it is, you’re storytelling.

And with all good stories, yours needs to have a beginning, middle, and end. It also needs to have a plot people can follow. Frankly, as geeks, we pretty much suck at this. We give too much detail, or we leave out the beginning or the end. Whatever we do too much of (or not enough of), we lose our audience. Or we fail to consider our audience. Or something like that.

We’re always telling stories. If we’re aware of that, our communication – especially to non-geeks – will likely get infinitely better.

My thirty-five cents on tech and sexism

Chromosome X
Chromosome X (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read any common tech blogs, you’ve noticed a bit of an explosion over sexism. There was the stuff at TechCrunch Disrupt, the brouhaha over the Business Insider CTO, and, while not strictly tech, the New York Times article on gender discrepancy at Hahvahd Business School. A bunch of folks have talked about how we need to sit up and take notice – and they’re right.

I’m not jumping on that bandwagon, though. I’m going to write about my personal experiences and preferences.

For anyone who hasn’t been following me for a while here, a bit about my background: I went to MIT. I used to run legal IT departments. I changed careers and went to HubSpot, and then spent two years at Amazon. Somewhere in there, I got an MBA from Simmons School of Management, the only all-female MBA program (can you say VERY DIFFERENT from everywhere else?). Recently, I started as Head of Growth at RecruitLoop. Experience in all sorts of male-dominated environments? Yeah; I have that.

I have experienced (many) vendors presenting their entire sales pitch to my 2nd in command just because he was a man and I was a woman. I have experienced doubt about my tech chops at every turn. I have experienced being “the little girl who spends our money” until I nailed my MIT diploma to the wall. I have experienced being told that I was hired because I was pretty and had curly brown hair. If you name the gender cliche, I’ve probably experienced it.

In all of this experience, I’ve come to some conclusions:

  • I would rather deal with juvenile, overt sexism than subtle dismissiveness. 
  • I would rather work with a bunch of idiots who I can call on their bullsh*t than work with a subtly higher bar than my male colleagues have.
  • I would rather personally start the “that’s what she said” jokes than be judged by every little thing I do.

In other words, in the “brogrammer” culture, I can call people on their crap. In the subtly sexist culture, what exactly do I have the ability to call out? In the “brogrammer” culture, I can just be the chick who will kick the crap out of you if you’re an ass. In the quietly sexist culture, I have become the whiner no matter how I approach it. Someday, the brogrammers will grow up a bit. The quiet ones, however? I’ve never seen any of them change. And working in a quietly sexist culture has been one of the most demoralizing experiences of my career.

I realize not all women have these preferences. I realize not all women are hard to overtly offend. I realize not all women can easily say, “Dude, did you REALLY just go there?”  I realize not all women will do shots, play flip-cup, and drink scotch. And that’s okay.

As I said at the beginning of the post, this is just my preference. My personal aim is to help my company achieve an inclusive balance, which includes me and anyone else who would be an asset to the team. I’ve read enough studies on gender diversity to know that this must include women. So, as others have already said, we (as an industry/culture/world) need to figure this out.